WASHINGTON, D.C. — Farmers and ranchers across the country continue to struggle amidst the current farm crisis – worsened by the impacts the coronavirus pandemic is having on supply chains and markets. Plummeting farm incomes, market instability, extreme weather patterns, and a thin disaster safety net have pushed many to bankruptcy, foreclosure, and even suicide. Many of these challenges are made worse for our nation’s military veterans, who have looked to a career in agriculture as a way to continue serving their country.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the availability of $20 million in grant funds to help support our nation’s farmers through these unprecedented times. Federal grants will be awarded to support farmer mental health and training for military veterans through two competitive programs administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA):
- Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) – a new grant program that will support a national network of organizations to connect farmers and ranchers, along with farmworkers, to stress assistance programs and mental health resources across the country. Application Deadline: June 23, 2020
- Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans (AgVets) – a new grant program that provides grants to non-profit organizations for training programs and services to establish and enhance farming and ranching opportunities for military veterans. Application Deadline: June 26, 2020
The Requests for Applications (RFA) for fiscal year (FY) 2020 for both programs were released last week and detailed information and application instructions are currently available on NIFA’s website. Organizations interested in applying for grant funding through either program must submit an electronic application through Grants.gov.
Program Details: FRSAN
The purpose of the FRSAN program is to establish and maintain a national network that connects farmers to stress assistance programs and resources across the country. USDA launched this program in 2019, and funded four awards that sought to: establish regional networks of organizations to provide resources to farmers in stress; develop a clearinghouse of resources; and educate teams in each region about resources available.
The second year of funding will support projects that align with, build upon, and/or complement the projects funded in FY19. Grants may be used to initiate, expand or sustain programs that provide health counseling and referrals to farmers through:
- Farm crisis helplines and websites
- Farm stress training programs and/or workshops
- Support groups
- Outreach services and dissemination of information and materials
In this funding round, NIFA is seeking applications from regional partnerships and collaborations that are led by or include nongovernmental organizations (NGO), state departments of agriculture, Cooperative Extension Services, and Indian tribes with expertise in providing professional agricultural behavioral health awareness, counseling, education, training, and referral for other forms of assistance. In addition, applicant organizations must have demonstrable prior experience working in the agricultural stress assistance space.
Like last year, this year’s RFA will continue to fund four regional centers nationwide as outlined in the table below:
Regional lead entities must have the capacity to make state-level sub-awards that will fund grassroots organizations to offer training and direct services to farmers on the ground. Funds may also be used to map resources in each region; provide a framework for how those resources can be connected; and train state-level people working with agricultural producers (train-the-trainer model) about how to identify farmers under stress, about the existence of a given regional network, availability of specific resources and how to access them, as well as how to make referrals to programs that are equipped to provide direct behavioral care assistance.
Proposal budgets are not to exceed $7.2 million over 3 years (including indirect costs). Indirect costs are limited to 30 percent of total federal funds, or an otherwise negotiated rate, within the budget. Matching resources are not required for proposals, and NIFA will not factor any matching resources during the review process. Based on this year’s competition, NIFA intends to provide continuation awards in FY 2021 and FY 2022.
Program Details: AgVets
This is the third year that NIFA has offered the AgVets competitive grant program. The goal of AgVets is to increase the number of military veterans gaining the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in agricultural careers.
Nearly $14 million will be awarded to non-profit organizations who are interested in developing model training programs specifically designed for hands-on farming and ranching training for military veterans. For examples of funded projects, check out previous awards here.
Both small and large grants will be awarded that support both new and established local and regional projects that seek to develop model training programs for military veterans. These model training programs must:
- Offer hands-on training and classroom education, including developing curriculum
- Include education, workshops, tours and instructor-supervised field experiences
- Be led and managed by a project team that has experience working with veterans
- Provide support for veteran participation with a special focus on diverse and underrepresented groups
- Include outreach to veterans who may have previously participated in USDA-funded projects (BFRDP, 2501)
- Create partnerships and collaborations with academic institutions and other regional entities to evaluate and disseminate findings, recommendations and impacts, including scalability
- Align education and training goals with USDA programs and resources to increase awareness and engagement with state and local FSA, NRCS, RD offices
- Collaborate with the Department of Veteran Affairs, Small Business Administration, and the Department of Labor
- Generate recommendations at the state and/or federal level that strengthen collaboration on transitioning Service members’ education, training, and apprenticeship programs, including use of GI Bill benefits, to promote the food and agricultural sector as a viable career option.
Grant projects can be up to $750,000 over three years for large standard projects and up to $300,000 for small standard projects. No federal match is required.
Like some other USDA grant programs, NIFA is releasing one RFA for two Fiscal Years – FY20 and FY21. The application deadlines are 5pm ET – June 26, 2020 (FY20 projects) and February 5, 2021 (FY21 projects).
Interested applicants must submit completed applications through Grants.gov. For more information on how to apply, check out the AgVets Request for Applications.
For additional funding opportunities, check out our RFA Roundup!
— National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition